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I watched God's Not Dead 2, because I guess I do that sort of thing now.

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Before we get started...


As always, I want to start off by saying I have absolutely no problem with anyone's religion. I was raised in an ultra-conservative Christian fundamentalist environment across many churches, denominations, and viewpoints. I would say that my identity is largely what it is today because of that upbringing, and as a result, I have a lot of issues, frustrations, and personal opinions that kind of draw me into broad Christian topics like this. It's just my own take on what I view to be subpar entertainment, and shouldn't really be taken as anything more.

And since my username now appears in red, I guess I should add that whatever I'm about to say are my thoughts alone and in no-way represent the NeoGAF moderation or admin staff.... Because why the fuck would they? Why would I have that authority? Are you insane? If I had that power, I'd just be saying random bullshit on behalf of NeoGAF all the time. Like... I'm just going to say NeoGAF is opposed to cherry tomatoes.




Fuck it. I'll rewind that statement and add NeoGAF is STRONGLY opposed to cherry tomatoes.

Actual unedited image of EviLore:


So, yeah. Let's start this. I'll proof-read later. I'm tired.

My thoughts on God's Not Dead Part 1: Origins
My thoughts on Do You Believe? Starring Ted McGinley, somehow
My thoughts on that Disney Channel movie where Frankie Muniz talks to God about boxcar racing
My thoughts on that cowboy movie everybody hates
My thoughts on Thor 2: The Dark World

Like a lot of GAF, I watched the trailer for this movie when it first came out a couple months ago. We all had some laughs. "It's coming out April 1st," "2 God 2 Furious," "God was dead, but he got better." But that was pretty much it. I didn't think about this movie too much. Occasionally, it would sneak its way into my mind, as this impending annoyance I knew was coming. The next thing I knew, it was here. Nobody asked me to go with them. I didn't see it as a time killer. I willingly went on opening weekend, by myself, and while I'd love to say I did it because I care so much about entertaining you guys, a large portion of why I wanted to see it was curiosity. As in... "What are they going to do this time?"

The original God's Not Dead really shook me to my core, because I'd grown so accustomed to the cliches that plague Christian entertainment, that I could never have imagined that that movie would end with Hercules being murdered by a car before the Newsboys teamed up with Duck Dynasty to text away Islam and... Chinese-ness(?) God's Not Dead reminded me that we're dealing with entertainment producers who live in a bubble, and don't actually care about how the outside world sees the inside of that bubble. And it reminded me that occasionally, that can produce some really interesting garbage.

Sunday night, at the latest showing I could find, I quietly purchased a ticket and sat down in the back of the theater for a show. I had a baseball cap pulled low over my face, and glasses that I hardly ever wear, to further avoid the possibility of someone I know spotting me, and enthusiastically wanting to watch this thing with me. Then I would have to explain to this person that I wasn't actually interested in seeing my faith requited in melodrama, but was actually watching to silently sneer as I dreamed up how to articulate my thoughts for a crowd of frothing heathens over the internet.... And then they would stare at me briefly before never talking to me again. So, luckily I was able to avoid all of that.

Let's gloss over the fact that the opening trailers for this movie included a terrible looking Ben-Hur remake and a goddamn Columbine movie that looks like an extended episode of Lizzie Maguire. Which is disappointing because I actually started to feel like their was going to be a renaissance in Christian entertainment with interesting-looking things like Risen and Last Days in the Desert popping up. But I guess we've quickly fallen back to the same exploitative whatever with a Newsboys song draped on top. There are other worship bands, PureFlix. Eagerly awaiting for the inevitable Newsboys v Hillsong: Dawn of Worship.

"Tell me... Do you praise?"

"You will."

But yeah, let's get to the movie, and let's get this right out of the way:

Dean Cain is not in this movie.

I know. I'm as disappointed as you are, and I have made my reservations known.


In fact, so many of the characters from the first movie that we grew to acknowledge are absent this time around. Our former protagonist Joss gets a name drop and nothing more. Presumably he has since dropped everything to become a full-time Newsboys groupie because O. - M. - G. - those - fuck - ing - News - boys. Doe Eyes has been... raptured, maybe, who knows. Muslim girl is presumably living in a tent in a park somewhere desperately hoping someone will give her a warm bed to sleep in. And Kevin Sorbo is still suffering from a terminal case of being a corpse.

But a few characters DO come back, thankfully. Including:

Amy! Wait... Didn't you die? No, that's right, you were just scheduled to die after the end of the first movie. Then you got miraculously healed in order to do... pretty much nothing in the sequel except look happy about things and occasionally spout some introspective soul-searching monologues.

Pastor Dave! Who really comes across in this as an awful pastor.

Pastor Dave's African friend! The movie doesn't even have a reason for him to be there other than Dave needs to have something to talk at sometimes.

Martin! The Chinese exchange student who Joss got hooked on Jesus. And boy is he Jonesin' for that Jesus. That one line mentioning Joss? It's Martin saying, "I'm a friend of Joss Whedon's. I had so many questions about Jesus, he told me I should go to you." Joss just passes him off, which is pretty funny to me. We spent the whole first movie watching Joss vehemently fight for Christianity, and then after the cameras are off he's just like, "Fuck off, Martin. I got stuff to do."

And of course, those Newsboys.

THE PLOT:

After attacking intellectuals in the first movie, what group can you fight that fundamentalists hate even more? The goddamned government, of course.

Our film begins by introducing some new main characters. I will say after the multi-story clusterfuck that was Do You Believe, this plot felt much more simplified, which was nice.

Brooke is our protagonist. She's a junior in Martin Luther King Jr. high school. And her parents are the worst. Ugh! Her dad eats breakfast in a hurry and wears a suit-- Awful! Her mom is career oriented and drives an SUV-- The worst, right?! Nobody has any time for her problems. That is until she goes to school and her history teacher (Melissa Joan Hart) notices that her student doesn't seem into her lesson. Which is odd, because the rest of the class seems ecstatic. Everyone's super eager to answer the next round of history trivia, and the discussions are always really involved.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch asks her student if she wants to talk, and Brooke says she's fine. But cut to Sabrina at a coffee shop later, and Brooke immediately shows up to say, "I lied. I want to talk." This transition is so abrupt and jarring that it's obviously there to shove in a "But it didn't happen on school grounds defense."

You remember those problems I said Brooke has? The main one is her brother is dead. She's super bummed about it. And she's upset that her parents don't care more. "They're over it," she explains. If you're like me, then you are a generous lover, but more importantly you see this plot going one of two ways: 1. the parents are grieving, just not openly, and Brooke will come to understand and grieve with them as a family; 2. Brooke will save her parents, and they will all be together in Christ by the end.

Well, let me go ahead and spoil the ending for a second. Neither of those things happens. They really are just over the death of their son, and they do not develop their characters at all. There's a scene early in the movie where the Salvation Army shows up at the house to carry away the brother's belongings and the mother says, and my memory isn't amazing, but this should be almost word for word: "The movers are here to take off your brother's things. Don't forget to put the milk away." She doesn't give a fuck. Literally the last shot of them in the movie is their looking perplexed and annoyed when their daughter announces her love for Christianity. It's just left dangling there. Which I found... odd.

Back to the beginning though. Brooke and Sabrina bond a bit over the whole Jesus thing and one day in class they're going over nonviolent protest, for example Gandhi and MLK. Brooke shoots her hand up and notes, "Isn't that like what Jesus meant when he said 'Love your enemies'?!" Like she's a five-year-old. Sabrina is actually taken aback for a second because of how weirdly sudden it is, but she nods.

"Yes," says the witch, "Jesus used nonviolent protest and comments on it in [Bible Verses]. Fucking immediately, a kid in class takes out his phone and frantically starts texting. I didn't get to see what he wrote, but presumably it was something like this:



Then all hell breaks loose... Literally... Well, not literally. I mean... more literally than in the typical use of that idiom. As a team of lawyers and school representatives call Sabrina to a meeting to be disciplined because she was preaching in class. And one of the lawyers looks like Hitler. Am I alone? Like... at least a passing resemblance to Hitler.


Regardless...

They're suing Sabrina. And everybody she works with seems fine about it. One teacher says "What were you thinking, Grace?!" The principal nearly has an emotional breakdown over it, and to underscore her reservations, we later hear her on the phone with a coach saying, "No, coach. No prayer. No pledge of allegiance. That includes the parking lots and on the field." She is firmly anti-Jesus.

Nobody is on Sabrina's side here. Except for youthful lawyer man. He's hip, young, and attractive. You can tell because he wears blazers with jeans, instead of a stuffy suit. He tells Sabrina that he isn't a Christian, but he'll defend her anyway. But why the hell is everyone so up-in-arms on suing her anyway? Well, the best I can tell, the school is worried about backlash and wants to throw it all at Sabrina to get the heat off them. But more importantly Brooke's parents think they can use the publicity to get Brooke accepted into an Ivy League college. Why would they think that? Because they are told so, by the Dean Cain of this movie.



Ray Wise is straight-up playing the Devil in this movie. It's never made literally explicit, but I don't know what else they could be going for. He's some kind of ultra-lawyer, and he hates Christianity. His only motivations given are "I hate these people and what they stand for," [his words] and some brief tirade about how situations like this could lead to the downfall of America. I don't how in the hell anyone in the jury is supposed to side with this man when he hisses out his words like Cobra fucking Commander.

But wait, don't these movies usually have like twenty plot threads going at once? Well, thankfully this one only has like three or four. The court case, Pastor Dave (which cross paths with Martin), and Amy. And Amy doesn't do shit in this movie. It's hilarious how little focus there is on the fact that Amy has been miraculously healed of cancer. All of her scenes are just about her accepting God... which she already did at the end of the first movie... so... You're pointless, Amy.

Now, Pastor Dave. We open the movie by seeing Pastor Dave stub his toe and get coffee spilled on him. Then he gets jury duty. Then later his appendix bursts. Now in the first movie, all of the bad luck that Pastor Dave experiences leads to him being there at the right time to witness Kevin Sorbo roadkill and get him a one-way ticket to Heaven. In this movie... it's just bad shit happening to him. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it kind of seems like God hates Pastor Dave. Probably because of that haircut.


[This image is from David AR White's website. I thought the choice of title was amusing.]

Like I said earlier, Pastor Dave gets jury duty. Guess which case. At the jury selection, Ray Wise and Youthful Lawyer are going through to pick out potential jurors that would have conflicts of interest in the case and getting them removed. Youthful Lawyer points to a young woman. "What's your favorite TV show?" She responds, "Pretty Little Liars." Youthful Lawyer thinks they might need to get this one removed.

Ray Wise points to an old man and asks the same question. "Duck Dynasty," the old man answers. Ray Wise immediately uses his challenge to get the old man out. There's a couple others, but the last big one I remember is a marine. Wise turns to his counsel and asks, "What part of 'For God, Corps, and Country,' do you want in that jury?" So he uses his last challenge before turning to Pastor Dave. He thinks he's an obvious throw-out for being a pastor, but Youthful Lawyer argues that the fundamentals of this case has nothing to do with religion, but only the law, and Dave's profession doesn't matter. And the honorable Judge Ernie Hudson agrees... which seems like a bad call to me, but, hey, I'm not a Ghostbuster. It doesn't really matter, anyway, because Dave's appendix bursts pretty early on in the court proceedings and he has to be replaced with a girl with crazy dyed hair and purple lipstick. This probably was supposed to play on audiences expectations and make them think, "Oh no! She doesn't look like a Christian," but earlier in the movie there was a shot of her looking on introspectively, so... Gee, I wonder why that shot would be there.

Now the actual case gets rolling and Youthful Lawyer comes up with their strategy. It's a history class, right? So, we just have to prove that Christ existed. Easy win. Ignoring the whole... direct quote from scripture thing, I guess. But here we go. This movie is actually a bit of a Trojan horse. What I mean is, it's not just some lousy religious movie, but actually an excuse to trap audiences so they have to listen to actual Christian authors make their case for why Jesus must have existed.

Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ.
J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity
and some guy I don't remember, and can't find online. There might have actually been another one, as well. They kind of blended together after a certain point.

Throughout their time on the stand, these authors essentially summarize their books. It's flat-out testimony, in the Jesus-sense, not the legal-sense. You might as well be in a church with a guest speaker, because this mimics the experience pretty well. Their arguments on why Jesus must have existed vary from the outlandishly ludicrous:
"Easy. The dates we use. B.C and A.D."

To the reasonable, but obvious and unconvincing:
"The conflicting accounts of the crucifixion in the Gospels match the same discrepancies from modern eye witness accounts of crimes."
You can actually watch the above argument on YouTube.

Ray Wise occasionally butts in to try to nail those Christians once and for all.... Nail... Christians... I actually didn't even mean to do that. But, he says things like, "Isn't your testimony invalid because of your bias as a Christian?"

To which he gets the reply, "Actually I started writing my book as an atheist, and was convinced of his existence before I was finished." Everyone mutters to themselves like that was a killing blow in the prosecution. But... I've seen a lot of Christian speakers in my day. The whole, "Started as an atheist, now we're here," schtick is pretty much par for the course. I don't see why his personal conversion proves the existence of Jesus, but hey, I wasn't in Dragon Ball: Evolution.
 
Aug 16, 2009
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Okay, let's take a break and go back to a side story. What about Brooke? She isn't involved in the court case, because her parents think she'll interfere, and they argue that they don't want her daughter being taken advantage of by the court. She spends most of the movie moping around and thinking about Jesus and stuff. Guess who also mopes around about Jesus and stuff: Martin!



Martin spends the whole movie in Pastor Dave's church, asking him endless questions about the bible and wanting to learn all that he can. Until we see him briefly return to his dorm and find his super serious Chinese businessman father standing there. His dad is a little annoyed that his son has abandoned his studies to focus on God. "You speak of him as if he is real!" His dad says. "He is!" Martin snaps back. So his dad slaps him and tells him he has "brought shame to [his] family." Direct quote. And then he just leaves never to be heard from again. Dude flew all the way from China to slap Martin in the face. You have to at least respect the passion.

Martin gets sad and goes back to Pastor Dave's church where he sobbingly sings a line from Nearer My God to Thee. But then Brooke shows up and sits in a pew. You know... I see this a lot in movies. People going to church after hours to sit in a pew and look up longingly at a stained glass window or something. I've been in the Bible Belt a long time and am pretty close friends with a lot of people in ministry, and I honestly don't know if I've ever heard of anyone doing this. I always assumed it must have been a Catholic or Orthodox thing. But Pastor Dave is clearly not Orthodox. He wears denim shirts with rolled up sleeves. Anyway-- Martin and Brooke. Yeah, Martin, who just a couple of days ago had questions about what God meant when he said to treat people the way you would want to be treated, starts ministering to Brooke and gets her to pray and accept God. He immediately goes to tell Pastor Dave that he is going to be a missionary and go back to China to spread the Gospel. Pretty fast turnaround rate on this God stuff. Maybe Pastor Dave should suggest actually learning the book before you jump on the plane, but... Pastor Dave really wants Martin to leave him alone, I guess.

While the case has been going on, Youthful Lawyer and Sabrina have been growing closer. They share Chinese food, talk about their lives, and Sabrina opens up about how she found religion. It was a pretty dumb story. Basically she saw a church sign that said "Who do you say that I Am?" and she started crying and converted. Yeah, I wouldn't share that one with the fellowship, Sabrina. And I guess, the case is going pretty well. It's getting a lot of media coverage, including a report by Mike Huckabee. It seems like the case could go either way, but I got the feeling that the jury was leaning towards Sabrina. But then...

Brooke...


Just barges in the side door, which was completely unguarded and unlocked. I can't really describe it, but it looks stupid. She opens the door and enters in a stupid way. She looks like she wandered in by accident for a moment. I wish I could adequately describe it. But anyway, she immediately starts screaming at the judge that Sabrina is innocent and that it's all her fault.

https://youtu.be/HzaUrL06s6c?t=34

Ray Wise immediately is like, "PUT HER ON THE STAND." And Ernie Hudson's like...


They put Brooke on the stand, and she's a blabbering mess, and she proceeds to undo all of the good will that Sabrina and Youthful Lawyer have gained. She tells about how Sabrina told her about Jesus, and she sought her out after class, and how she was her favorite teacher, and how now she is Christian. We cut to Brooke's parents face-palming and that's their stage exit. Ray Wise smugly says, "No further questions your honor."

We reach the low-point. All is doomed. Youthful Lawyer just says to Sabrina, "We can't win this case." She starts crying and saying she's going to lose everything. She runs home and begs for God, "Please don't forsake me."



Later we have one last day to save her. Youthful Lawyer shows up in a fancy suit, because... character development? And he calls Sabrina to the stand and the courtroom gasps... Isn't that, like, a normal thing? To have the defendant take the stand? Why hadn't it happened already?

Youthful Lawyer asks if he can treat her as a hostile witness, and Ernie Hudson, like usual, doesn't give a fuck, and then Youthful Lawyer goes off. He asks Sabrina if she still believes in God, if she would ever not believe in God, and stuff like that. He asks super aggressively and typically doesn't let her finish answering. He is eventually screaming at her until she's crying. "What was that story you told me? About that church sign?!"

"That was private. Why are you doing this?!"

He doesn't let up. "How could anyone believe that?! How could we let this woman teach in our schools?! How can we allow people like this to work in our governments?! And why stop there?!"

You see what's happening. He goes on this tirade about persecution until he reaches the climax.

"Who are we kidding?! We know it's always going to end looking down the barrel of a gun."



He adds, "We should just send all to the livery." Sabrina is a hysterical, crying mess. But whatever, he made his point. There seems to be a recurring theme in this series about emotionally devastating someone in the name of God.

After the court scene, we see a man comment she doesn't have a prayer. Cut to...

THOSE GODDAMN NEWSBOYS! The lead singer is speaking to a massive concert audience. "We're all gonna pray for Sabrina the Teenage Witch, right now!"

We're about to see the verdict read. Everyone holds their breath. "We find in the favor of Grace Wesley." Brooke runs outside to the press and happily states "God IS NOT dead." Mass cheering. Jesus is saved. Pat Boone dances, because I forgot to mention that Pat Boone is in this movie for 10 seconds as Sabrina's moral support.

Ray Wise is walking out with his counsel. They say they could move it to a higher court, but Ray Wise says, "I don't want to set a precedent." His counsel notes, "At least you proved the existence of Jesus Christ." And he just stares her down. He seems really mad, but I think he probably realized later that it was a pretty good joke.



Cut to:
THOSE NEWSBOYS! They're in concert! They're... doing that one song they have. Good on you, Newsboys.

Black screen.

Text everyone you know:
GOD IS NOT DEAD

... [Slow fade-in underneath]
HE IS SURELY ALIVE

So, I guess these movies are going to keep going until we eventually have to text the entire song.

Now, I finished the plot, but I actually want to go back, because there was a major subplot that I left out because I legitimately didn't understand it. I don't know if I was distracted for an explanation, but....

Pastor Dave meets with a bunch of other pastors, including Fred Thompson, who is only in one scene. I guess he probably died mid-production. Anyway, Thompson says, "Bad news, the government wants all of our sermons for the last 90 days to be turned in for review." .... I MUST have missed something. There's no way that just happens without reason, right? What's even more confusing is that the pastors are appalled by this, thinking that the government is going to censor them... retroactively? Since all the sermons have already been given. I guess the implication is that the government will tell them what to say from now on? Pastor Dave just refuses to do it (No legal consequences are given). And I don't understand why, outside of this bullshit, "This is how it starts," persecution stuff that the movie is built on. But I don't know what the deal was. The only way I can interpret it is in some sci-fi dystopian way.

Here's the scene. You explain to me how in the hell it's supposed to make any sense in modern legal proceedings.

I told you I thought God's Not Dead was largely inoffensive (Unless you happen to be Muslim, Chinese, or a car accident victim). This one... not so much. It's just outright delusional, and anyone regardless of faith should be able to see that. It directly attacks separation of church and state and openly belittles anyone who doesn't want to be Christian. There are plenty of lines like "Someone's always going to be offended," and and other anti-PC defenses.

It's annoying. It's out-of-touch. And it's never going to convert anyone. It's just for Christians to watch and nod and say, "This is so true," regarding things that are most certainly not-- and I'm not referring to religious beliefs, but the silly persecution complex.

So yeah, there you go. It's garbage, and the only redeeming aspect is Ray Wise. Who hams it up gloriously.

I'm Lionel Mandrake. Believe what you want. Don't be a dick. And don't whine about things that aren't issues.

Goodnight.
 

FortuneFaded

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I haven't seen the first one yet. Like the Quickly & Angrily series, I'm just going to wait until they make their 10th and final film and then binge watch.
 

TylerD

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I may come back and add more actual analysis, but I'm tired and got stuff to do.

Pastor Dave meets with a bunch of other pastors, including Fred Thompson, who is only in one scene. I guess he probably died mid-production. Anyway, Thompson says, "Bad news, the government wants all of our sermons for the last 90 days to be turned in for review." .... I MUST have missed something. There's no way that just happens without reason, right? What's even more confusing is that the pastors are appalled by this, thinking that the government is going to censor them... retroactively? Since all the sermons have already been given. I guess the implication is that the government will tell them what to say from now on? Pastor Dave just refuses to do it (No legal consequences are given). And I don't understand why, outside of this bullshit, "This is how it starts," persecution stuff that the movie is built on. But I don't know what the deal was. The only way I can interpret it is in some sci-fi dystopian way.

Here's the scene. You explain to me how in the hell it's supposed to make any sense in modern legal proceedings.

***Spoilers***

I was also confused at this whole thing until I sat to the end of the credits based on something my girlfriend had read.
Dave gets his ass arrested and is put into a cop car that drives off while his friend looks on. God's Not Dead 3: Pastor Dave, Locked Up!!
 

Wilsongt

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In any normal court, Young Lawyer would be slapped down.
Shoulda stayed doing soap operas, YL.
 

TaterTots

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I'm a lazy reader on forums and typically skip over huge posts, but given the subject I'm looking forward to buckling down and giving this a go when I get back.
 

SchrodingerC

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So Ray Wise (sort of) reprised his role as the Devil from Reaper? Fuck. Yes.

I can just sense the American Christian persecution complex just flow from the words, only slightly dulled by Lionel's amazing review.
 

EmCeeGramr

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I was about to say I didn't remember you reviewing that Frankie Muniz movie because I distinctly remembered two weird things about it, but then I opened the thread and I had posted about both of those in there

Anyway, that's my story


Now to actually read your writeup
 

iammeiam

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Dec 28, 2006
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A+ satisfying as always.

The subpoena thing appears to be based on the Houston situation; basically there was an anti-LGBT ordinance, some funny business regarding signatures on a petition against it occurred, five pastors were served subpoenas for their sermons to see if they'd instructed the congregations to cheat or something.

The subpoenas overreached, the reaction was immensely negative, and they were withdrawn. But that it happened at all means it's time to fearmonger!

I'm honestly surprised that it ties in with something post-credits, I just assumed it was there because of that one time something similar kind of happened almost.
 

TylerD

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Jan 3, 2008
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A+ satisfying as always.

The subpoena thing appears to be based on the Houston situation; basically there was an anti-LGBT ordinance, some funny business regarding signatures on a petition against it occurred, five pastors were served subpoenas for their sermons to see if they'd instructed the congregations to cheat or something.

The subpoenas overreached, the reaction was immensely negative, and they were withdrawn. But that it happened at all means it's time to fearmonger!

I'm honestly surprised that it ties in with something post-credits, I just assumed it was there because of that one time something similar kind of happened almost.

Thanks for this, it seems like the line in the movie "they tried to do the same thing in Houston once." leaned towards a pretty minor thing that they were trying to blow WAY out of proportion.
 

Mariolee

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As a Christian myself, I abhor these films because it almost feels like an atheist made these as to troll the Christian community. I absolutely love your summaries and can't wait for the next one.

Have you watched Believe Me yet? I thought that was one of the better Christian films of the past few years?
 

TimeEffect

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Mar 17, 2010
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You know what would be cool? If the converted foreigner hooks up with the white lead.

Imagine if Martin and Sabrina got together, or the Muslim girl from the first one and the Christian philosophy student.

By hook up, I mean become bf/gf with the implication that they marry
 

xxracerxx

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As a Christian myself, I abhor these films because it almost feels like an atheist made these as to troll the Christian community.

They always seem like the other end of the spectrum for me. Hardcore Christians that feel persecuted by everyone else not believing what they believe.
 

DMB4237

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Did Martin still speak Cantonese while his father answered in mandarin like I the first movie?
 
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